Andrew Dewdney | 01.11. – 20.12.2021

Zombie Photography: What Is the Photographic Image Still Doing?

This contribution to Still Searching… is based upon the argument of my book, Forget Photography (Goldsmiths Press, 2021). The blog series is an opportunity to share some of the thinking of Forget Photography and hopefully engage in a broader dialogue about the current state of the politics of the image. The central paradox I explore is that, at a moment when photography is being technically replaced by screens, algorithms and data flow, photographic cultures are proliferating like never before. Photography is everywhere, but not as we have known it: for some time it has been an undead, a zombie, in which the established language, thinking, meanings and values of photography now stand as an obstacle to grasping the new condition. I argue that the very term photography is a barrier to understanding the altered state of the default visual image, but understanding the nature of those barriers remains a puzzle. The blog series is haunted by a pervasive problem: which is that the photographic image in computational culture continues to function as a system of universal representation, which underwrites a capitalist social formation. The persistence of a system of representation operating in a non-representational computational mode of reproduction is a paradox, and something I explore further in what transpires in this exchange. Over the course of my contribution, which is structured around three cold cases – investigations into the mortal remains of photography –, I will focus upon what keeps the logic of representation in place, how it intersects with the exhaustion of democratic politics and the inwardness of socialist organisation and how image circulation reinforces hyper-individualism and the pursuit of identity politics.

Andrew Dewdney

Andrew Dewdney is a professor of educational media at the School of Arts and Creative Industries at London South Bank University (LSBU) and a co-director of The Centre for the Study of the Networked Image (CSNI), which he co-founded with Katrina Sluis and Daniel Rubinstein in 2012 and which has since been joined by Annet Dekker, Geoff Cox and Elena Marchevska as co-directors. He has a long association with photography in education and radical photographic practice. Dewdney has written and published widely and his co-authored books include: Youth Culture and Photography (1988), Racism, Representation and Photography (1994), Down But Not Out (1994), The Digital Media Handbook (2006), and Post Critical Museology: Theory and Practice in the Art Museum (2013). He has contributed numerous chapters on new media and museology to several edited volumes and refereed journals. His most recent book Forget Photography (Goldsmiths Press) was published in October 2021.